The BFI has announced the full line-up of the 56th London Film Festival, kicking off with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie on 10th October, ending with Mike Newell’s Great Expectations on 21st October and with more than two hundred and twenty more features and over a hundred shorts in between.
In addition to the opening and closing galas, the festival will be giving the highest profile red-carpet screenings to films including the Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet, Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo, Paul Andrew Williams’ comedy drama Song For Marion, Roger Michell’s drama set in the run-up to the Second World War, Hyde Park on Hudson, a 60s-set Australian musical comedy The Sapphires and the real-life drama The Sessions.
Many of the stars – including Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Michael Gambon, Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Ecclestone, Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Helen Hunt, Chris O’Dowd, William H Macy and even the Rolling Stones themselves – are expected to attend their premieres.
Throughout the festival, many of the directors and stars will take part in Question-and-Answer sessions with audiences, as well as hold master classes.
For the first time under the leadership of the BFI’s new head of exhibition, Clare Stewart, there are a number of changes to the format. At just twelve days, the festival will be slightly shorter, but there’ll be more screenings, with more cinemas across London being used and some films being shown simultaneously at cinemas across the UK.
Another change to this year’s festival is a more formal arrangement for the awards. The same prizes will be handed out, but under a new system, with each competition having a more structured programme, including twelve entries.
The contenders vying for the Best FIlm Award, include Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday, Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, this year’s Un Certain Regard winner from Cannes, After Lucia, David Ayer’s gritty LA police drama End of Watch and the latest films from the French directors François Ozon and Jacques Audiard.
What used to be known as the Sutherland Prize has now become the First Feature Competition; the entrants include Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won prizes at both Cannes and Sundance, the London gangland drama My Brother The Devil and the South African drama, Sleeper’s Wake.
This year’s Documentary Competition, in association with the Grierson Trust, will include Sarah Gavron’s Village at the End of the World, a study of elderly gay French people called Les Invisibles, a film about the British cartoonist Ralph Steadman and an examination of allegations of paedophilia in the Catholic Church.
The fourth and final contest is for the Best British Newcomer, which includes cast and crew from films including My Brother the Devil, Wasteland, Shell, Broken and The Comedian.
The general structure of the programme has also been changed, to put the films into categories, designed to help festival-goers select the films that mean the most to them.
A key film in the “Love” section will be Michael Haneke’s appropriately titled Cannes winner, L’Amour, about an elderly couple coping with the aftermath of a stroke. Other films in this section include Broken, Laurence Anyways, Keep The Lights On and Love, Marilyn.
The documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, the Italian film about a girl in a vegetative state Dormant Beauty and Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt – another Cannes prize winner – feature in the “Debate” programme.
The opening film from Venice, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, will be screened under the “Dare” banner, alongside another Cannes winner Post Tenebras Lux and Pablo Trapero’s White Elephant.
Ben Wheatley’s deathly dark comedy Sightseers, about two midlanders whose camping holiday takes an unexpected turn, will be showcased in the “Laugh” section, which will also feature the Australian cricketing comedy Save Your Legs and the political satire Grassroots.
The Berlin Golden Bear winner Ceasar Must Die, the Nordic noir Easy Money and the Sundance hit Compliance are among the films in the “Thrill” category.
The “Cult” section includes an animated biopic of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, called A Liar’s Autobiography, the debut from David Cronenberg’s son Brandon, Antiviral and a peculiarly violent musical centring on a tragic love story from Japan’s Takashi Miike, For Love’s Sake.
Another Cannes prize-winner, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills, will feature alongside Michel Gondry’s The We And The I and a documentary about the A5 in the “Journey” programme.
Musically inspired films will fill the “Sonic” section, which will include Mat Whitecross’ coming-of-age story Spike Island, about a 1990s Indie band, and Good Vibrations, a biopic of Belfast’s Godfather of Punk, Terri Hooley.
The makes of A Town Called Panic are back with another animation, Ernest & Celestine, in the “Family” programme, alongside other animated features from France and Japan.
The festival will also be showcasing the work of newer directors with a range of short film programmes, tackling a range of themes from crime, action, relationships and obsessions. There’ll also be a strand of shorts from students at some of the UK’s leading film schools.
Video artists will also be showcased at the Experiementa Weekend, towards the end of the festival.
A “Treasures” section will include films from archives around the world, including a restoration of Lawrence of Arabia and a celebration of The Genius of Hitchcock.